Ten installations at the Chicago Architecture Biennial

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The Chicago Architecture Biennial has returned to Chicago for its fourth edition with installations by Atelier Bow-Wow and Manuel Herz Architects. Here are 10 must-see projects.


The biennale, curated by designer David Brown, features contributions from over 80 participants from more than 18 countries.

This includes numerous site-specific installations, many of which have been erected on empty lots across the city.

Under the theme of The Available City, this edition of the event seeks to explore who is contributing to the design of Chicago, with projects from studios such as Skidmore Owings & Merrill and Outpost Office.


SPLAM from SOM

Architecture studio SOM worked with students to build an open-air learning laboratory and meeting room for the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning on Chicago’s South Shore.

The pavilion was created as a prototype to demonstrate the possibilities of prefabricated half-timbered structures for the construction of large structures.

“SPLAM weaves wooden beams like threads into a fabric and explores the idea of ​​using smaller pieces of wood than traditional wood construction systems,” said SOM.


Block Party by Studio Barnes in collaboration with Shawhin Roudbari and MAS Context

Block Party by Studio Barnes in collaboration with Shawhin Roudbari and MAS Context

Studio Barnes created two buildings on property in North Lawndale that were “born of Chicago’s rich history of annual block parties.”

The first is light pink and blue and is meant to be reminiscent of the look and feel of a bouncy castle or bouncy castle that are often seen at block parties.

In addition, a second, smaller structure made up of a series of blocks is used for social gatherings.


Cover the net for outposts

Cover the net for outposts

For its Cover the Grid installation, Outpost Office painted a number of plots in the districts of North Lawndale and Pilsen with “urban country paintings on an architectural scale”.

The temporary installation, created with GPS-guided robots typically used to paint lines on sports fields, aims to challenge civil boundaries and public paths.


River frame from PORT

River frame from PORT

PORT’s River Frames are intended to draw attention to the history of the installation site near Bertrand Goldberg’s River City Apartments on the southern branch of the Chicago River.

On a gravel walkway that delineates the footprint of the former Chicago Great Western Freight warehouse, which was demolished in the 1970s, sits a cluster of steel frame structures that “reflect the Spartan warehouse structure that occupied Southbank Park for nearly a century”.


Englewood's Commons by Atelier Bow-Wow

Englewood’s Commons by Atelier Bow-Wow

Tokyo-based architecture firm Atelier Bow-Wow is developing a pavilion and meeting room in a square that marks the entrance to the Englewood Nature Trail on Chicago’s South Side.

As part of the project, the studio is creating a communal table for 40 people, raised beds, indoor cultivation houses and new office space.


Central Park Theater by Manuel Herz Architects

Central Park Theater by Manuel Herz Architects

For this installation, the Swiss studio Manuel Herz Architects wanted to evoke memories of the buildings that stood near the Central Park Theater in North Lawndale, which is currently being restored.

A pattern based on floor plans and sections of the lost buildings was painted over the building.


Grids + Griots by Sekou Cooke Studio

Grids + Griots by Sekou Cooke Studio

Sekou Cooke Studio’s contribution to the Biennale consists of a series of structures that can be used as benches, tables, plant beds, sales stalls and bicycle storage facilities, which consist of a cut-open, twelve-meter-long shipping container.

The installation called Grids + Griots was created in collaboration with the youth organization Young Men’s Educational Network (YMEN) and is located at their location in North Lawndale.


Soil laboratory by James Albert Martin, Eibhlín Ní Chathasaigh, Anne Dorthe Vester and Maria Bruun

Soil laboratory by James Albert Martin, Eibhlín Ní Chathasaigh, Anne Dorthe Vester and Maria Bruun

The Soil Lab is located in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago and will see a number of structures during the Biennale.

Structures for social gatherings are built from bricks, rammed earth and ceramic tiles.


The garden table by Studio Ossidiana

The garden table by Studio Ossidiana

The Rotterdam studio Ossidiana designed the garden table as “part kitchen, part play, part stage”.

In addition to seating and table surfaces, the permanent installation in the El Paseo community garden in Pilsen is crowned by boards for playing marble solitaire, tic tac toe, backgammon and chess.


Woodlawn Canopies: Stories and Future by Norman Teague Design Studios

Woodlawn Canopies: Stories and Future by Norman Teague Design Studios

On an empty lot opposite the New Beginnings Church, the temporary Woodlawn Canopies were created as a common room in collaboration with the mentoring and training organization Project HOOD (Helping Others Obtain Destiny).

In addition to an interactive work area and stage, an exhibition space was built to showcase the story of Project HOOD.


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